Fantasy Football 2023: Teammate RBs Who Could Both Be Fantasy Starters


Fantasy football managers tend to lament the modern shift to backfield time shares. But about once per year, a couple of running back teammates crash through their presumed workload ceilings and provides a pair of RB2-or-better finishes in fantasy. Measured on a per-game basis, it’s happened 20 times in the last 15 seasons, and those precedents paint a clear picture of the boxes those backs and their teams need to check.

Teams with 2 RB2-or-betters, 2008-22
Season Team Players (Rk)
2008 NO Reggie Bush (15), Pierre Thomas (18)
2009 CAR DeAngelo Williams (9), Jonathan Stewart (19)
2010 SD Mike Tolbert (21), Ryan Mathews (23)
2011 SD Ryan Mathews (9), Mike Tolbert (18)
2013 DET Reggie Bush (8), Joique Bell (16)
2013 SD Ryan Mathews (14), Danny Woodhead (17)
2014 CIN Giovani Bernard (13), Jeremy Hill (15)
2015 BUF LeSean McCoy (7), Karlos Williams (18)
2015 NYJ Chris Ivory (11), Bilal Powell (22)
2016 ATL Devonta Freeman (7), Tevin Coleman (12)
2016 CIN Jeremy Hill (20), Giovani Bernard (23)
2017 ATL Devonta Freeman (11), Tevin Coleman (20)
2017 NE Rex Burkhead (15), Dion Lewis (16)
2017 NO Alvin Kamara (4), Mark Ingram (8)
2018 NO Alvin Kamara (5), Mark Ingram (24)
2019 LAC Austin Ekeler (7), Melvin Gordon (15)
2020 CLV Nick Chubb (5), Kareem Hunt (19)
2021 DEN Melvin Gordon (21), Javonte Williams (23)
2022 DAL Tony Pollard (8), Ezekiel Elliott (20)
2022 DET Jamaal Williams (14), D’Andre Swift (21)

Here are the rules the teams that have done it in the past have met:

The ‘At Least 7 Wins’ Rule

Teams need to be competitive to produce two RB2s. Winning allows teams to skew their run/pass workloads toward the run in an effort to kill clock. The 20 recent teams with two RB2s won 9.75 games on average, include 17 without the 17th game from the last two years. And 18 of those 20 teams won at least seven games.

The ‘Under 15% Quarterback Carry Share’ Rule

Teams need their running backs to take the bulk of their rushing attempts to produce two RB2s. That might sound obvious, but there is nuance since dual-threat quarterbacks tend to push their offenses toward run-heavier run/pass balances. Tyrod Taylor bucked the trend with a 23.8% carry share in 2015 when his Bills teammates LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams hit the RB2 benchmark. But Taylor was an outlier. None of the other 20 teams saw a collective Quarterback Carry Share over 15%.

The ‘At Least 50 Targets or 7 Touchdowns’ Rule

A bell-cow back can ride his touch volume to an RB2 finish. But a typical timeshare has some specialization. And for a specialized back to achieve in fantasy, he needs either receiving work or touchdowns, the pillars of fantasy production in half-PPR scoring. 39 of the 40 running teammates with RB2 value saw either 50 targets or seven touchdowns or both. And the exception — LeSean McCoy in 2015 — came close with 49 targets and played for the Quarterback Carry Share outlier, Tyrod Taylor.

Those rules provide a foundation for my attempt to handicap the most likely two-RB2-or-better teams in 2023. I started with Projected Wins from the upcoming Aaron Schatz FTN Football Almanac and Quarterback Carry Shares from 2022. And then I looked for running backs with at least 3.1 targets or 0.44 expected touchdowns per game in 2022, rates that would pro-rate to 50 targets and seven scores over a healthy 2023 season.

But as Geoffrey Rush would say, they are more guidelines than actual rules. Predicting wins is an inexact science. Some teams strike me as more or less likely to lean on the run independent of their quarterback’s rushing proficiency. And some teams have three or four backs that could see work and make it less likely for any of two of them to hit the RB2 benchmark. My rankings of the most likely two-RB2 teams have a splash of art with their science.

1. Detroit Lions

Projected Wins: 9.8
Quarterback Carry Share: Jared Goff, 6.1%
Most Likely RB2 Pair: Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery

Gibbs was the No. 12 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. But he may be less of an immediate bell cow than his recent lottery-pick precedents like Saquon Barkley and Leonard Fournette. Gibbs is undersized at 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds (27.9 BMI) and saw a receiving-heavy workload at Alabama. He could follow Christian McCaffrey‘s example with a 200-touch, 60-plus-catch rookie season and leave his new, bigger teammate David Montgomery most of the goal-line carries until he adds more weight for his second and third NFL seasons. The veteran is unlikely to see Jamaal Williams‘ outlier total of 32 carries inside the 5-yard line. But Montgomery could be a similarly efficient red zone hammer with his excellent after-contact skills.

2. Kansas City Chiefs

Projected Wins: 10.6
Quarterback Carry Share: Patrick Mahomes, 14.6%
Most Likely RB2 Pair: Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon

Patrick Mahomes hasn’t always shared the Chiefs’ abundant red zone work with his running backs. But after the Week 8 bye last season, Pacheco ranked top 10 at his position with 24 red zone carries and eight carries inside the 5-yard line. He could double his five freshman touchdowns as a luckier, full-season, early-down starter. Meanwhile, receiving back McKinnon averaged 8.6 touches, 4.3 catches, 57 yards, and 0.9 touchdowns in the second half last season and ranked as an RB1, never mind an RB2. That duo complements each other perfectly for two-RB2 potential. They just need Clyde Edwards-Helaire to remain a distant third string.

3. Denver Broncos

Projected Wins: 7.4
Quarterback Carry Share: Russell Wilson, 14.4%
Most Likely RB2 Pair: Javonte Williams and Samaje Perine

Javonte Williams Denver Broncos 2023 Fantasy Football Teammate RB2 Options

Williams and Perine look like thunder and more thunder with their 220- and 240-pound frames. But Perine belied his size with a blocking-driven third-down role for the Bengals in recent seasons and improved from 12 to 31 to 51 targets. Perine may play more early downs in September as Williams returns from his ACL injury. But Williams also paced the position with a 26.1% broken tackle rate in his rookie 2021 season. If he returns to his pre-injury form, Williams could emerge as one of the most efficient backs in both real and fantasy football.

4. Atlanta Falcons

Projected Wins: 10.0
Quarterback Carry Share: Desmond Ridder, 11.3%
Most Likely RB2 Pair: Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier

Robinson is more likely than his Lions lottery foil Jahmyr Gibbs to dominate his backfield in touches in 2023. But I wouldn’t discount his Falcons teammate Allgeier. The fifth-rounder ranked top 10 at his position with 2.46 yards after contact per attempt in 2022. If Arthur Smith runs enough to sustain a second productive back or just wants to save his star rookie’s legs, he could give Allgeier a heavy red zone workload and spur a surprising seven-touchdown season for the presumed backup.

5. New England Patriots

Projected Wins: 8.2
Quarterback Carry Share: Mac Jones, 14.3%
Most Likely RB2 Pair: Rhamondre Stevenson and Ty Montgomery

The Patriots would rank first in two-RB2 odds if this were Stevenson and Dalvin Cook. But even without the veteran free agent, the Patriots enjoy a top five chance with a less traditional path. James White saw 50 or more targets in six straight Patriots seasons from 2015 to 2020. And while he never cracked the RB2 threshold — with less than full-PPR scoring — White blazed a trail his versatile successor Montgomery could follow. Montgomery missed nearly his entire first Patriots season with a shoulder injury. But he’s back in 2023 and impressing early with four touchdowns on Day 1 of training camp. He may technically play receiver now, but that won’t matter if he’s RB-eligible in fantasy.


6. New York Jets

Projected Wins: 9.6
Quarterback Carry Share: Aaron Rodgers, 7.5%
Most Likely RB2 Pair: Breece Hall and Michael Carter

With an athletic Day 3 rookie in Israel Abanikanda and an exceptional sophomore tackle-avoider in Zonovan Knight behind them, Hall and Carter may have too much competition for dual-RB2 seasons even without Dalvin Cook on the team. But Hall and Carter do have the right complementary skill sets. Hall had a 10.0% explosive run rate in 2022 that was second best among backs with his volume of carries. He could hit seven touchdowns even without a dominant red zone role. Meanwhile, Carter averaged 4.0 targets per game as a rookie and could return to that standard on the other side of a 2022 ankle injury.

7. Green Bay Packers

Projected Wins: 9.3
Quarterback Carry Share: Jordan Love, 20.0% (in one start in 2021)
Most Likely RB2 Pair: Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon

Jones and Dillon failed to reach the two-RB2 status with a less mobile and likely much more prolific passer in Aaron Rodgers the last three seasons. That may not bode well for a breakthrough with Jordan Love under center in 2023. But I still have some optimism. The 247-pound Dillon set a new career high with seven touchdowns in 2022. And he was still unlucky with 8.74 expected touchdowns.

8. Seattle Seahawks

Projected Wins: 8.3
Quarterback Carry Share: Geno Smith, 16.0%
Most Likely RB2 Pair: Kenneth Walker and Zach Charbonnet

Geno Smith may not match Jordan Love‘s maybe-disqualifying 20.0% carry share. But Smith has a full season breaking the “Under 15% Quarterback Carry Share” rule, not just one start. That drops the Seahawks below the Packers for me. But I wouldn’t put it past Pete Carroll to push for 500 team carries, a threshold he met in just 16 games in Russell Wilson‘s rushing peak in 2018. He made second-round running back draft picks each of the last two seasons, and Kenneth Walker jumped from 2.0 targets per game in the first half to 2.7 targets per game in the second half of his rookie season. He never saw a heavy target share in college, but Walker teased the potential in his excellent 7.5% explosive run rate. I’m not convinced Charbonnet is the better red zone choice, but Carroll’s is the only opinion that matters.

9. Washington Commanders

Projected Wins: 7.8
Quarterback Carry Share: Sam Howell, 12.2% (in one start in 2022)
Most Likely RB2 Pair: Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson

Brian Robinson Washington Commanders 2023 Fantasy Football Teammate RB2 Options

Robinson scored just two touchdowns in his freshman season, but he asserted his 225-pound frame in tripling his teammate Gibson nine red zone carries to three in the final third of the season. He will score more — and Gibson should catch more — if rookie quarterback Sam Howell can outplay 2022 Commanders starters Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke. And if Howell can stay in the pocket. The 220-pound sophomore was a prolific zone-read runner with 183 carries and 828 rushing yards in his final season at North Carolina.

10. Dallas Cowboys

Projected Wins: 11.0
Quarterback Carry Share: Dak Prescott, 11.7%
Most Likely RB2 Pair: Tony Pollard and Malik Davis

An optimist might read the Cowboys’ decision to draft the tiny, 172-pound Deuce Vaughn as an endorsement of Pollard’s bell-cow potential. But while he isn’t Vaughn small, Pollard is small by typical NFL runner standards at 6-foot-0 and 209 pounds (28.3 BMI). He may not have a ton of room to grow from his 250-touch, 55-target 2022 season. And if they want to protect their most valuable rusher, the Cowboys mean lean on an unheralded Davis in the red zone.

11. Los Angeles Chargers

Projected Wins: 9.3
Quarterback Carry Share: Justin Herbert, 13.4%
Most Likely RB2 Pair: Austin Ekeler and Isaiah Spiller

Ekeler demonstrated his red zone proficiency with 20 and 18 total touchdowns the last two seasons, each the most at his position. But if the Chargers wanted to ease his burden, they would likely do it inside the 20-yard line. Ekeler is a gifted pass-catcher. And his fourth-round sophomore teammate Spiller is 25 pounds heavier.

12. Jacksonville Jaguars

Projected Wins: 9.5
Quarterback Carry Share: Trevor Lawrence, 13.8%
Most Likely RB2 Pair: Travis Etienne and Tank Bigsby

I would argue that Etienne’s 5.35-touchdown shortfall versus his 10.35 expected scores in 2022 was bad luck. But NFL coaches rarely live and die by statistical regression. And Doug Pederson may have spent a Day 2 draft pick on Bigsby because he believes Etienne lacks some requisite toughness between the tackles. Bigsby belies his nickname with an undersized 6-foot-0 and 213-pound (28.9 BMI) frame. But he scored 10 touchdowns in the SEC each of the last two seasons.

13. New Orleans Saints

Projected Wins: 9.9
Quarterback Carry Share: Derek Carr, 6.5%
Most Likely RB2 Pair: Alvin Kamara and Jamaal Williams

Kamara and Williams would be top 10 shoe-ins with different circumstances. It isn’t the two-RB2 rules, either. The Saints are effective co-favorites to win the NFC South, and their new starter Derek Carr is as traditional a pocket passer as modern quarterbacks come. But Kamara faces a potential suspension for an off-field incident from 2021. And Williams could see his league-leading total of 32 red zone carries cut in half or more next to a red zone specialist but RB-ineligible Taysom Hill.

14. San Francisco 49ers

Projected Wins: 10.9
Quarterback Carry Share: Brock Purdy, 7.6%
Most Likely RB2 Pair: Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell

The 49ers have their own non-RB runner in Deebo Samuel and a bell-cow talent in McCaffrey. But Kyle Shanahan never runs the ball too much for his taste, and the second-stringer Mitchell averaged a healthy10.5 touches per game after the McCaffrey trade last season. The problem is the specialization. McCaffrey unsurprisingly dominated Mitchell with 5.5 versus 1.0 targets per game in their four concurrent contests. But McCaffrey also paced Mitchell with five versus three carries within 5 yards of the end zone. Mitchell might need to score four or five breakaway touchdowns to reach seven total scores in 2023. He has the speed to do so, but I like those odds less than a baker’s dozen of other teams.

15. Miami Dolphins

Projected Wins: 8.4
Quarterback Carry Share: Tua Tagovailoa, 8.4%
Most Likely RB2 Pair: Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson

The Shanahan-inspired Dolphins are a Dalvin Cook away from a top five two-RB2 rating. But as things stand, they trail the 49ers thanks to a lack of clear specialization. After a trade from Shanahan’s San Francisco squad, Wilson asserted a preferred red zone role with 12 carries inside the 20-yard line, five more than Mostert took in the second half of the season. But Mostert’s 42 targets missed the benchmark and seem unlikely to increase with a Day 2 rookie in De’Von Achane on the team. Mostert and Achane have overlapping skill sets. Their identical 4.32-second 40 speed makes them the two fastest backs in the league.

16. Los Angeles Rams

Projected Wins: 6.1
Quarterback Carry Share: Matthew Stafford, 6.5%
Most Likely RB2 Pair: Cam Akers and Kyren Williams

Cam Akers Los Angeles Rams 2023 Fantasy Football Teammate RB2 Options

The Rams fall dramatically short of the “At Least 7 Wins” rule with a modest 6.1 Projected Wins, tied for fourth fewest in football. But I don’t think anyone would discount head coach Sean McVay’s chances to surprise with a healthy Matthew Stafford at quarterback. Akers hit the seven-touchdown benchmark in what was basically half a season after McVay benched him from Week 6 to Week 8, and he responded to that adversity with a 24.5% broken tackle rate that was fourth best among regular running backs. But Akers is yet to reach even 20 targets in his three professional seasons. Williams missed that benchmark as well in 2022, but he caught 77 balls in his last two Notre Dame seasons and has a receiving back skill set. 

17. Tampa Bay Bucs

Projected Wins: 7.7
Quarterback Carry Share: Baker Mayfield, 11.6%
Most Likely RB2 Pair: Rachaad White and Chase Edmonds

White checked an unexpected box with his 58 targets in 2022. But that receiving volume likely said more about Tom Brady‘s passing style than it did White’s proficiency on third downs. With Leonard Fournette a free agent, White could see dramatically more early-down work and could threaten seven touchdowns even if the Bucs fall off their recent playoff standard. Meanwhile, Edmonds exceeded 50 targets in a complementary Cardinals role in 2020 and 2021. He could bounce back to that level if he avoids the ankle issues that derailed his 2022 season.

18. Carolina Panthers

Projected Wins: 6.7
Quarterback Carry Share: Bryce Young, 10.9% (at Alabama in 2022)
Most Likely RB2 Pair: Miles Sanders and Chuba Hubbard

It’s difficult to bet on a team with a likely Week 1 rookie starter. But modern rookie quarterbacks seem better equipped to have immediate success than their predecessors. And Bryce Young has better talent on his Panthers team than most No. 1 draft picks have on their teams. Sanders and Hubbard have the right specializations for the two-RB2 status, at least on paper. The former scored 11 times for the Eagles in 2022, and the latter jumped from 0.2 targets per game before to 1.8 targets per game after the Christian McCaffrey trade. But I could also see Sanders expanding his receiving role this year and trending toward a bell-cow role. He set a career high with 63 targets in his rookie 2019 season, the year before the Eagles drafted Jalen Hurts.


19. Houston Texans

Projected Wins: 5.8
Quarterback Carry Share: C.J. Stroud, 10.3% (at Ohio State in 2022)
Most Likely RB2 Pair: Dameon Pierce and Devin Singletary

To my thinking, Pierce and Singletary are more natural two-RB2 foils. Pierce is 10 pounds heavier and had 8.11 expected touchdowns in his rookie season. And Singletary saw 50 targets each of the last three seasons in Buffalo. But the Texans may be harder-pressed than the Panthers to compete for seven wins in 2023, if mainly because of their more difficult conference.

20. Cleveland Browns

Projected Wins: 10.3
Quarterback Carry Share: Deshaun Watson, 19.8%
Most Likely RB2 Pair: Nick Chubb and Jerome Ford

This 20th-place ranking would likely have raised some eyebrows if Kareem Hunt were still on the team. But to me, this standing is less about a potential Hunt-to-Ford downgrade and more about the Browns’ new quarterback. He may not have matched that 30%+ standards of the most prolific quarterback runners like Justin Fields and Jalen Hurts, but Watson easily broke the “Under 15% Quarterback Carry Share” rule in the second half of 2022. And with Watson and maybe the best runner in football in Chubb, the Browns may not have room for a second RB2 candidate, whatever his level of talent.

21. Pittsburgh Steelers

Projected Wins: 9.1
Quarterback Carry Share: Kenny Pickett, 14.1%
Most Likely RB2 Pair: Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren

Jaylen Warren Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 Fantasy Football Teammate RB2 Options

I’ve seen a disheartening number of Steelers fans call for less Harris and more Warren in 2023 based solely on their respective 3.8 and 4.9 yards per carry last season. But yards per attempt reflects roles more than efficiency. Harris and Warren had the same 22.1% broken tackle rate in 2022. But the veteran saw his traditional efficiency stats suffer because of his high rate of third-and-short and red zone carries. Perhaps Warren could sneak into the RB2 discussion with his receiving. He saw a promising 33 rookie targets with plenty of third-down snaps. But I would bet on another dominant Harris workload in 2023.

22. Tennessee Titans

Projected Wins: 7.3
Quarterback Carry Share: Ryan Tannehill, 10.7%
Most Likely RB2 Pair: Derrick Henry and Tyjae Spears

Henry has averaged 24.3 touches per game the last four seasons. That doesn’t leave room for an RB4 behind him, never mind an RB2. But the Titans are in an interesting flux in 2023, and that could be good or bad news for their two-RB2 chances. First, the team made just its second Day 2 running back investment in the last seven years in Spears. And the rookie’s smaller 5-foot-11 and 195-pound (27.2 BMI) frame could skew his work toward receiving, even if he never bested 22 catches in a season in four years at Tulane. Second, the Titans are teetering between a competitive and rebuilding season. If they fall behind in a front-loaded schedule, the team may choose to bench Ryan Tannehill and even trade Henry. Rookie quarterback Will Levis had a 15.9% carry share at Kentucky in 2022. But Spears would not need to sweat an RB2 workload if he found himself a featured back after a hypothetical Henry trade.

23. Las Vegas Raiders

Projected Wins: 7.9
Quarterback Carry Share: Jimmy Garoppolo, 8.4%
Most Likely RB2 Pair: Josh Jacobs and Zamir White

Jacobs had a Henry-like hold on his team’s backfield work in 2022. But while he seems less likely to be traded, Jacobs is threatening to hold out in an attempt to secure a long-term extension. White saw just 17 rookie touches in 2022 and neither scored nor caught a pass. But if he had a month and a half of runway as the de facto starter, then maybe White could hit the RB2 benchmark before he yielded the bulk of his work to a returning Jacobs in the second half of the season.

Teams that violate the “At Least 7 Wins” rule:

  • Cardinals (6.1)
  • Panthers (6.7)
  • Bears (5.6)
  • Texans (5.8)
  • Colts (6.0)
  • Rams (6.1)
  • Vikings (6.7)
  • Giants (6.7)

Teams that violate the “Under 15% Quarterback Carry Share” rule:

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